Sunday, January 22, 2012

Passing on the baton

When I was elected as Chair of Labour North West two years ago I said I would serve only for a couple of years. The two previous chairs had clocked up 25 years between them and I took the view that we need regular change and new focus if we are to be an effective region.

So yesterday at the AGM I told members that I was retiring from the post and that I hoped they would choose someone new to continue to develop the role and the work programme. They voted for Manchester's Sue Pugh as Chair. I am particularly pleased that the Board chose another woman for the role, and I wish her all the best during her term in office.

Theresa Griffin was re-elected to support Sue as Vice Chair. Sue represents the Greater Manchester CLPs on the Board and with Theresa being from Liverpool that gives us arguably a better geographical spread.

Theresa holds a particularly special place within the Labour North West region as she is the first reserve on the European MEP list, such that should Arlene or Brian not serve out their full term, she would step in, until the next election.  Her role as Vice Chair gives her the opportunity to create and develop European Policy Forums, chair the European session at Regional Conference and take a role in the EPLP report back to the board.

I have really enjoyed my period in office, although it has been hard work at times. We have had a number of successes, notably back to back national annual conferences in the region - with the new leader being announced in Manchester in 2010. We have had two great regional conferences, particularly this year in Blackpool which was addressed by the leader of the party and several shadow cabinet members, as well as the new General Secretary (chief of staff). 400 delegates and 100 young members engaged in a whole weekend of debate, policy consultation and training.

We had a tremendous success in Oldham East and Saddleworth 12 months ago, despite extremely inauspicious circumstances, and our regional staff were magnificent, enthusing over 500 members to campaign in the depths of a snowy winter.

The local elections in both 2010 and 2011 saw many councils come back to Labour, including of course Liverpool, and I am very satisfied that both of our major cities remain Tory free. We had a pretty good General election too, returning increased majorities in many Labour seats as the voters demonstrated their determination not to see a Tory government, sadly our victories were not repeated throughout the country, and the results are plain for all to see. Alison McGovern's Wirral South victory was the result of the night for the region and I know she will become a real star in the PLP over the coming  years.

As chair, I have been involved in training members in campaigning skills, all over the region, whether that was the Young Labour  members in the Wirral or Lancashire local election candidates, many of whom are now really embracing Labour doorstep activities. We have improved our financial position over the last year, having been somewhat depleted as a result of the byelection, and we have maintained a good Organiser base to ensure that we are focussed on our target councils for 2012. We also played a full and active part in the consultations with the Boundary Commission about new Parliamentary Constituencies across the North West, but I wont be holding my breath to see whether our sensible voices were actually heard.

I will continue to carry out investigations, hear appeals and perform other constitutional work as a Board member and intend to play a full part in the new Working Parties we have established to concentrate on membership, fundraising, campaignign and training.

This year the Regional Chair will need to get to grips with referendums and possible elections for City Mayors as well as the elections for Police Commissioners - neither of which are things I am greatly in favour of to be honest - although I will of course get behind Labour candidates if and when such elections take place.  They are tasks I wont regret not having to help sort out administratively....although that has only just occurred to me, and was not part of my thinking about why it is good to limit the term of office of the Chair, in case you were wondering!

I have enjoyed the role very much and I know that Board meetings in particular have been more friendly and good humoured in recent years, we have had a real sense of unity and have achieved some fantastic results, electorally and in policy campaign terms, holding our leaders to account. I would like to thank all board members, past and present for their support and commitment to the Labour cause. Perhaps I will organise a small party at the next Regional Conference, the location of which will be another task for the new Chair to oversee!


Stuart Bruce said...

Louise, incredibly impressed that you decided to serve two years as chair, although I think three might have been better! I couldn't agree more about the need for constant renewal and refreshing - we have so much talent in the Labour Party, but it isn't always allowed to flourish because people stay in post for far too long. If we are to encourage members to become more active, recruit new members and get more young people involved then we have to offer them the realistic opportunity to flourish. I'd say the same theory applies to regional board members and chair, NPF reps, CLP chairs, LGC chairs etc and even for councillors. Well done for setting a fine example.

Louise Baldock said...

Thanks very much for the kind comments Stuart. I have heard from a lot of members since I posted the news yesterday. As I have said, I loved being the chair and could happily have carried on for decades, feeling proud and enjoying chairing conference etc, but the position is really not about building a profile for Louise Baldock. It is about ensuring that the Region goes from strength to strength. I hope the new Chair follows my example, I will certainly be urging that she does if she is still in post in a few years' time. I have not yet decided whether to serve further years on the board itself, I will be guided by the members of Merseyside CLPs as to whether they would like to give someone else this opportunity. Best wishes, Louise